Man hunting cockroaches

Vietnam Untold Stories: Man Makes a Living Hunting Cockroaches


What would it take for a father to make sure he can provide a comfortable life for his family? This is a story of a local Vietnamese father that has cockroach hunting for a job.

Mr. Ho Khanh has been hunting cockroaches and selling them for the last 20 years – it is both a unique and challenging job knowing he needs to search in every corner of Vietnam’s streets withstanding the foul smell and dirt that comes with fulfilling his everyday task.

Mr. Khanh is known to Saigon Fishermen as “Mr. Chín Gián(wherein Gián means cockroach and the Chín came from the hook shop he previously worked) the exclusive cockroach hunter and supplier to special fishing bait sellers.

His day starts with preparing his hunting tools and carrying them on a bicycle – this is composed of a can with caramelized malt to help lure the cockroaches and a wooden stick. He goes through several passageways, sewers, and even landfills in the hopes of finding a spot where cockroaches hide, and once discovered, he plows the land and would scoop the cockroaches with bare hands mixed with worms and earthly insects.

In some days, Mr. Khanh would earn approximately between five hundred thousand to one million VND however, in some days where there are no fishermen he earns nothing. And yet he chose this kind of profession because when he was still working at a hook shop, the money he and his then lottery seller wife’s earnings was not enough to support their four children.

Advised by one of his companions at Mr. Chin’s hook shop about how expensive cockroach baits are, Mr. Khanh took on his chances and ventured out. Every single day, he would go out twice in the morning and in the evening to hunt for earth and red cockroaches fueled by his personal knowledge as a fisherman himself, he knows that some popular catfishes prefer cockroaches due to their eggs. Mr. Khanh accordingly earns 50,000 VND for a can of more than 100 pieces of earth cockroaches while the red cockroaches also cost 50,000 VND, but are handed in a half liter of a bottle with holes around for breathing.

Due to the nature of this job, Mr. Khanh’s family was against it at first. He endured the dangers of being cut by broken glass, bitten by snakes or scorpions since he is not wearing any gloves during the hunt. The foul smell that floods their house whenever he comes home from a hunt didn’t help convince his family either – bathing or rubbing his hands with lemon juice does little to no effect. But realizing that the job doesn’t need any capital and is a means of immediate income, Mrs. Tran Thi Kim Anh, Mr. Khanh’s wife, started helping him whenever she had free time.

Hand-in-hand they would go out each night on their bicycle and return home at 1 AM – 2 AM to look for drainage sewers where most red cockroaches can be found and this somehow alleviated the need for income of the family – comfortably raising their four children without having to loan or depend on anyone.

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